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We have an exciting announcement! AIDemocracy is going out on tour in about a week to campuses in Ohio, Massachusetts and Maine to build the grassroots student movement for a world without nuclear weapons!

We’re gonna be screening the film Countdown to Zero, a film from the same Academy-Award winning makers of “An Inconvenient Truth” that does a fantastic job explaining the nuclear threat and why it is so critical that we eliminate nuclear weapons everywhere. You can check out the trailer and find out more about the film at its website.

We’re also going to be encouraging students to speak out about nuclear weapons – either by signing a declaration, taking their photo with a sign saying they don’t want nuclear weapons, write and/or call their Senators, etc. Basically we’re looking for a commitment to a world without nuclear weapons.

However, to pull all of this off, we need some help. We need to find spaces for us to screen the film on the campuses we want to visit in these states, like Ohio State, Boston University, Harvard, University of New England, etc. If you can help us book a space on a campus in any or all of these states, let Patrick, our Global Peace and Security Fellow know ASAP. The tour will take place between Saturday, Nov. 13th to Tuesday, Nov. 23rd, so time is of the essence!

And as an added bonus, we’re able to offer a $100 incentive to any student who can help us organize the event and do some canvassing on campus the day of the screening (5-7 hours work).

Remember, all we need at the moment is help finding a space on campus. We will take care of the rest. Contact us to help get this tour on the road so we can put nuclear weapons where they belong!


By Richard Lim, Peace and Security Issue Analyst

“An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic.”
– Thomas Jefferson

“The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the
average voter.” – Winston Churchill

Every two years the American people are barraged ad nauseum with ads, fliers, mailers, phone calls, and bumper stickers reminding them to get out the vote. Vote because this election is the most important in history! Vote because your children depend on it!

Indeed, voting is an indispensible element of a republic. For those who have emigrated from nations where sham elections are the rule rather than the exception, voting means much more. It could mean a family member or a friend who went to prison because they demanded their basic rights. Too often we forget the blood, sweat, and tears that made our suffrage possible.
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By Jenn Piatt, Global Peace and Security Issue Analyst on US-Muslim world relations

The ban on the face veil in a few European countries, has received wide spread attention. Justifications for the legal bans vary; yet, seem to be centered on three key concepts: national security, the oppression/liberation of women, and the promotion of secularism.

Setting aside the legal and secularist arguments that each of these countries face within the context of their domestic laws, is banning the veil really accomplishing what they set out to? Does removing a face covering achieve national security, liberate women, or enhance the secularist perspective? I’ m unpersuaded by the arguments.

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By Richard Lim, GPS Issue Analyst on US-Muslim world relations

Extremism is no way to respond to extremism. Just as bigotry towards Islam (or any group for that matter) is destructive to society, so too is the knee-jerk reaction that assumes America is a nation of overzealous, Islamophobes. Just as the stereotyping of Muslims is unfair, so too is the stereotyping of Americans as ignorant racists.

In the past year, Muslim perceptions of America have reached a nadir. The outcry over the building of a Muslim community center blocks away from the 9/11 site and the highly-publicized efforts of radical “Pastor” Terry Jones to burn the Qur’an have seemed to confirm a pattern of intolerance that has increased since 9/11.

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By Tahira Saleem, GPS Issue Analyst on Iraq and Afghanistan

The Afghan President Hamid Karzai has recently announced the formation of a new Peace Council headed by the former President Burhanudin Rabbani. The new peace council is another effort for reintegration of the Taliban in the country’s political system. The earlier Kabul conference and London conference had similar aims of brokering peace with the warring factions in Afghanistan. But the question arises about whether this new council promises any hope for the war-torn country.

The peace council, the brainchild of Karzai, has neglected the Afghan traders, intellectuals, and the members of civil society. All of its 69 hand-picked members are Afghan warlords; the key figure among them is Burhanudin Rabbani, who is implicated in war crimes of killing and displacement of Afghan people.

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By Eamon Penland

As a follow-up to my first post, and in a response to a recent AIDemocracy tweet, I decided to address the issue of development with regards to our security.

Just the other night I had a conversation with a friend who tried to argue against our foreign aid budget. He argued that development should neither be an objective of U.S. foreign policy, nor an issue we should be concerned with.

I think the role that the United States plays in the development of other countries is still seen by many in the light of “liberal tree huggers that just want to save the world”. It should be seen in a light of the ultimate form of American protectionism.

We need to realize that terrorism is more than just an ideology. It is an economic system as well. In David Kilcullen’s book, The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One, Kilcullen argues that a majority of terrorists have no interest in what he calls “Takfiri Islam”. This is the radical form of Islam that we associate with terrorism. Takfiri believers infiltrate tribes by marrying into families, thus they are able to conceal themselves amongst the local more moderate believers. These radicals are small in numbers, and they become extremely difficult to pick out of local populations.

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On September 18th, Afghanistan will hold its parliamentary election for the lower house, Wolesi Jirga. 2,577 candiates, 405 of them women, have filed to run for the 249 seats. The election was originally set to be held in May, but was postponed due to “lack of security and logistics.” Different factions within the Taliban have threatened to kill those participating in the election, and as last year, they have proclaimed a boycott.  At worst, 15 % of the polling places won’t be open on election day, due to the threats, election officials in Kabul say.

The presidential election of 2009 was a catastrophe.  There were large-scale frauds, low voter turnout, threats from a variety of groups and a general lack of security. The Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan collected evidence of election fraud, and Afghans working for the BBC found out there was voting cards being sold on the black market on a massive scale. Hundreds of polling stations in areas where governmental influence is low were shut down the day before the election, allegedly because of the fear of insurgent attacks. There is also evidence that bribes were being offered in order to buy significant amount of votes, to influence the outcome of the election. Voting irregularities occurred as well, especially in the southern province of Helmand, where the numbers of voters in one poll suddenly tripled even though the guards at the poll station had seen very little activity that day.

Western officials have been very clear on the fact that there had been election corruption and that people did not show up because of the lack of security and a sense of apathy towards the government. The Parliamentary election in just a few days faces the same issues the presidential election experienced one year ago. This is a massive test for the security forces in Afghanistan, and for the government officials. If they manage to keep corruption, fraud and violence to a minimum we might see a change of atmosphere in the country, and a new attitude toward the decision makers. However, increased violence and heavy fighting the past year does not leave hopes that high, at least not mine.

-Hakon Kristinsen Moe, Global Peace and Security Program Intern

Post by Claude Joseph, Brooklyn College.

The CARE’s National Conference 2010 is the most far-reaching event that I have participated in in the past three years. The reasons are twofold: first of all, it approached the eradication of global poverty with a paradigm focused on empowering women. Since women are the cornerstone of any society, this approach is, in my opinion, the best one. I was so proud to meet Her Excellency Sia Nyama Koroma, First Lady of the Republic of Sierra Leone and Her Excellency Ida Odinga, wife of the Prime Minister of Kenya–two women who are committed to play a significant role in the fight against global poverty.  I had the opportunity to chat briefly with these two venerable women about the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit my country, Haiti, on January 12, 2010. In this short meeting, I realized how deeply struck they were by what was happening in Haiti, despite being an ocean away.

Secondly, thanks to this conference, I have joined the CARE Action Network, a social network of great magnitude in terms of people who are committing their lives to the struggle for a better world. I am proud to join these people who welcome each other with open-minds and share their experiences on many subjects.

Also, it is worthwhile to mention that the CARE conference inspired me to further engage with the Haitian Youth Leaders’ Symposium, held in Haiti last week, where more than two thousand young people gathered to discuss reconstruction efforts.

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Post by AIDemocracy member and Global Scholar alum Nisha Patel, Arizona State University.

Lobbyists hold a lot of importance in our society; they’re the ones who carry the people’s voices and catalyze change to happen in legislation (even if they’re restricted to do their job in certain areas of D.C.)! When we were in training for Lobby Day at the CARE Conference, it never occurred to me that as CARE members being trained… we are both constituents AND lobbyists voicing our concern on the global issues of maternal/pre-natal healthcare, preventing child marriage, and food security.

With small groups of people and hard-core training on understanding the issue and talking points, I felt beyond prepared to persuade Senators and Representatives to co-sponsor these bills and take them to the floor for a vote! I never thought me, a college student and lifelong humanitarian, would get the opportunity to lobby in the Dirksen and Hart buildings and be under the same roof as our country’s most influential people.

When the day finally came to lobby, I was extremely anxious. I’m not too sure why because I knew our issues inside and out, and my group was in the same boat as me- first timer lobbyists. Entering into the first office, I knew it was the time to whip out the light bulbs and touching anecdotes. Time to convince Congress how important these issues are to CARE, people in the U.S., and around the world.

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The following blog post was written by AIDemocracy member and Cornell student Ashley Binetti. She attended the 2010 CARE National Conference in Washington, D.C. with the AIDemocracy delegation.

One thing I love about Care’s national conferences is that they combine education with advocacy.  Participants are able to attend workshops on a plethora of humanitarian issues, and then take their knowledge to the Hill.  This year’s conference focused on food security, protecting mothers and preventing child marriage.  I chose to focus my lobbying efforts on chronic hunger.

Secretary Clinton made an address during the opening plenary, and her message about nutrition struck a cord.  She noted that malnutrition has adverse affects on education, health and the economies of developing nations.  We also heard experts assert that chronic hunger is a development problem, and it isn’t going to disappear with a quick fix.  Shipping food from the United States to developing countries has proven unsuccessful time and again.  These shipments are costly and depress market prices, hurting farmers who are already struggling.  A simple switch to supporting local/regional programs would eliminate these undesirable costs.

While speaking with congressmen in Washington, we specifically tried to garner support for The Global Food Security Act (H.R. 3077/S. 384).  This resolution would create a Special Coordinator for Global Food Security, emphasize a multi-sector approach, increase research on sustainable technology by partnering with universities, and create a Rapid Response Food Crises Fund.  It is fantastic step in combating chronic hunger.  However, because this bill involves appropriating funds for development assistance, some congressmen have hesitated to endorse it.  Debating this issue during our meetings on the Hill, I argued that reorienting our spending, even in this economic climate, is a moral necessity.  Every five seconds a child dies from hunger-related complications (  These are preventable deaths: this is an outrage.

Call or e-mail (or visit!) your Senators and Representatives today.  If they are co-sponsors, thank them for their support and ask them to energize their fellow congressmen to join in the fight.  If they are not co-sponsors, ask them to support this basic human right by becoming a co-sponsor. Read the rest of this entry »


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